“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Ernest Hemingway
Before I left for the Paris Marathon, I knew this would be a memorable trip. I traveled to Paris over a summer in law school and have visited several time since. The ostensible reason for doing the Paris Marathon was to join in on buddy Wayne Crayton's Trampathon Abroad, a 3 European Marathon trip. Wayne and his buddy Bob had done Rome 3 weeks earlier.
Who was I kidding. I love Paris. I love the food, the wine, the monuments and museums. I love the simple, yet elegant style of Paris women. I love a good French wine with a reasonable price. It was also an opportunity to reconnect with good friend, running buddy and fellow triathlete Jacques Watters and his wife Christine. They had moved from Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina about six months ago. Jacques had decided to join in on the trip. He also proposed that we run in related costumes. After kicking around a few ideas, we came up with Wayne and Garth from "Wayne's World." I knew then that this would be a fun run and not a race for a PR.
It was all for the best as there were 31,566 runners at the start in front of the Arch de Triumph on Sunday morning. The temperatures at the start were in the low 50s and most runners wore the white plastic bags given out at the Expo for that purpose. My wife Salome wore a plastic bag and made it look good. Jacques & I wore flannel shirts both for warmth and to fit the Wayne's World rolls. Many people got the get ups and we acted the part. We did impromptu bits for those around us, until the loudspeakers started playing Black Eye Peas' "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night." As we approach the starting line, we step over heaps of discarded clothes, plastic bags and water bottles full of what appears to be the end product of drinking too much fluid before the race. I guess those plastic bags provided more cover than just protection from the wind. Salome started the marathon with us, but stopped at a Port o' Potty near the starting line. So much for keeping the group together. Wayne and Bob were a couple of corrals back, so we were pretty sure we would not see them until the finish.
The course down the Champs-Élysées was crowded but exhilarating. Just before we got to the Place de la Concorde, Jacques and I noticed several runners pulled over in the park peeing on the evenly placed trees. As we pulled over to also take advantage of nature's urinals, I noted that any other time of the year, the French police would beat us for peeing outdoors in this location.
The course through the streets of Paris was beautiful. When we got to the Place de Bastille, we met up with Jacques' wife and his Uncle Roger, a Frenchman who lives outside of Paris. While we ran the Paris Marathon, Christine and Roger ran the Marathon de Metro trying to get on and off at subway stops along the course to see us run by at 4 stops. I told Christine afterward that she should organize run supporters and sell shirts that say, "I ran the Marathon de Metro." All I ask is a 10% cut in this venture.
At about mile 10, Jacques mentioned he'd need to use a Port o' Potty. As we happened to be running in a large park on the east side of Paris, I notice that several people had simply gone behind the bushes. Luckily, Jacques brought along a small bit of his own toilet paper.
The costumes lasted until about mile 9 1/2 when the shirts and wigs become too hot. When Jacques handed me his flannel shirt to toss to the side of the road, it was heavy with sweat. I tried to toss it quickly. Jacques still got many shout outs along the course as part of his costume was an AC/DC tee shirt. I guess the French love AC/DC. On the other hand, who doesn't love AC/DC?
At mile 12, Jacques got jostled by anther runner and I watched him fall in what felt like slow motion. There was nothing I could do to stop his fall. All I could think of as he fell was that our day could be over. If he got hurt, I would most likely have to accompany him to the hospital. Luckily, he falls well. While hitting his knee and scrapping his hands, there was no bleeding. I felt the need to make him feel better and gave him a handful of electrolyte jellybeans. Unfortunately, the jellybeans bunched together in his mouth, almost choking him in the process. OK, so maybe the jellybeans weren't such a good idea.
Along the course, we stopped off and danced beside with some women dancing with an African drum group, drank red wine being offered around the 30K mark, and met up with Christine and Roger a couple more times. We passed the Eiffel Tower and the small Statue of Liberty. At one point, we ran under a bridge near the Seine River. The crowd started a shouting wave behind us that went from the back of the mile long tunnel towards us at the far end of the tunnel. It was a little spooky as it sounded like a train coming up behind us.
Around mile 17, we get passed by a guy who is walking the race on stilts. With his long stride, he was making about 3 strikes with each leg forward. It hardly seems fair. I told Jacques I had half a mind to kick out one of those stilts. After the race, a lot of the other runners from the Marathon Tours group also had seen this guy pass them during the course of the marathon. I mean, come on, the guy passed most of us during the course of the marathon....and he is walking! Yup, someone should definitely have kicked out one of those stilts.
At mile 20 there was a stand giving out white wine. How could we resist. We stopped and toasted our hosts and each other.
Jacques started dropping off pace the second half of the race. It was fine with me as we were not running for time and were having a blast together on the course. I thought we had a chance to beat 4:45, but we end up crossing the finish in 4:50. Shortly thereafter, Salome crosses in 5:07. She was feeling great through 26 miles, but fell apart a bit for the last 2/10ths of a mile. Luckily, a nice French runner assisted her for those last yards. We meet up with Christine and Roger for post race pictures and each headed for our respective hotels. Salome & I meet up later at our hotel with Wayne and Bob who were not far behind us on the course.
That night we drank Champagne and continued with wine at dinner. The rest of the trip was touring and long dinners in the evening. I highly recommend this marathon to anyone who likes a beautiful run. Just be sure to run it for the view. It's too crowded to run it for time, particularly if you stop for wine.
On the right side of this blog is a slide show of both our touring and the marathon. If you're viewing this on Facebook, the pictures are also loaded up under my photo albums.
We all had such a great time on this trip that we agreed that we should do one of these European Marathons each year. Probably not a realistic goal, but who wants to argue with such a great idea when you are deep into your post race wine and fromage?